What’s in a Name?

02 Sep


Do you know the meaning of your name, and why your parents chose it? Do you think it suits you? What about your children’s names?

Quoting the Bard of Avon, what’s in a name?  For the ancients quite a bit, for us modern folks, it seems more than not, not very much.  In ancient times, a person would name their child to express at least two things: first, they wished to declare something of themselves (usually the father in the patriarchal societies of that day) and second, to give the child a name they could live up to.  

For example, in the book of Genesis, Terah named his son Abram (later to become known more famously as Abraham).  The name Abram in Hebrew is made up of two words.  Ab-ram (pronounced Av-rom).  Ab means father (in the New Testament we have the statement about God as our Father and Jesus uses the word Abba (no, not the pop group!) which is Aramaic for father) and ram means exalted.

So, when you put all that together Abram means Exalted Father.  This then was a dual testimony.  For Terah, it was his wish to be remembered as such.  No, this is not so much about pride (in the bad sense anyway) as it is about legacy.  He wanted (and hoped) to live up to the name himself.  He wanted to be seen as holding that position and fulfilling his responsibilities as a father. That comes as a breath of fresh air in today’s world, sadly.

It also meant something for the child as well, as I stated above.  For Abram, it meant Terah wanted him to grow up and be what his name implied.  He wanted him to have that character and integrity that would be necessary to fulfill the status of the name Abram.  Of course, this is part of the divine irony of the Abrahamic narratives. It seemed for the longest time, Abram would not have the opportunity to fulfill this destiny, since he and Sarai (later Sarah) did not have a single child until very, very late in life.

Eventually, through the plan and will of God, Abram did become a father.  He did get the chance to live up to his name . . . and he did.

As to my own, it means simply and profoundly, to honor God or honoring God.  My name descends from Greek and, like Abram, is made up of two words.  In Greek they are:  Timo which is a verb meaning to honor, honoring and Theos which means God.  I often remark to people when they shorten my name (as people seem overly prone to do!) to Tim, they are leaving off the most important part of the name: God!

When we named our two girls, meaning was important as well.  One has a biblical (specifically Hebrew meaning) and the other is a familial meaning.  The youngest’s first name is for my wife’s maternal grandmother and her middle name is for my maternal grandfather.

So, what’s in a name?  It depends I suppose.  Many people today name their kids a name they find pleasant to their ears.  Many have resorted to making up their own names: some are quite hilarious!  Which, I guess is okay.  I only lament the fact that the meaning of names is increasingly being lost.

Maybe I am a little old-school (I don’t get to say that often!) but, I think a name should mean something.  It is like the roots of a tree.  It gives the individual a sense of purpose, of destiny.  It is only a start, of course, but it is at least that.  The person is free to ignore its significance and meaning if they so choose; but, it is still there nonetheless.  It signifies a heritage, a testimony on the part of the parent, early on, saying what he/she/they want that child to be in life.  It speaks to character, morality and integrity.

Surely, these are things still worth striving for, even in our day and age.

*********What do you think?  Share below with your comments!****


Posted by on September 2, 2013 in Grace in the Everyday


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24 responses to “What’s in a Name?

  1. linbeth

    September 2, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Ha ha I said we were twins once before… I somehow managed to choose the same image for my post today that you have… and I never read posts before I submit my own. How strange… I agree with your point about roots, and it always worries me that kids will be bullied for having what can still be regarded as ridiculous names. They are names for objects not people.

    • Timothy Murray

      September 2, 2013 at 9:24 am

      Hi again, linbeth! Yes, we know celebrities are notorious for such things; but, there are lots of “common” folk who do the same thing.

  2. beingnenne

    September 2, 2013 at 9:45 am

    I agree. Meaning is important but if a name does not have one, it only takes a little (ok a lot) of searching to find the meaning. Every word will have a meaning in any of the many languages in the world. I know cause I found my meaning like that. 🙂 My submission for today’s prompt is about that..:)

    • Timothy Murray

      September 2, 2013 at 9:52 am

      Hi beingnenne, thanks for the comment and I will check out your post!

  3. bluebeadpublications

    September 2, 2013 at 10:54 am

    Good points. My name means the dark in Gaelic. I am Black Irish.

    • Timothy Murray

      September 2, 2013 at 12:07 pm

      Interesting. Do you know how to write/spell your name in Gaelic?


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